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Jobless rate climbs

labor force shrinks

February 08, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Cold weather and manufacturing plants shutting down temporarily for the holidays contributed to Washington County's unemployment rate increasing in December, a Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation official said Friday.

The county's unemployment rate increased from 3.6 percent in November to 4.1 percent in December, with 298 more people unemployed in December, according to preliminary estimates.

The county's unemployment rate in December 2002 also was 4.1 percent.

The "awful cold and snow" in December affected construction work as well as other outdoor occupations, said Bill Kelly, job service supervisor for the labor department's Hagerstown office.

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The average temperature in December was 33.9 degrees and there was 13.5 inches of snow that month, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site at i4weather.net.

Some manufacturers also had short-term layoffs in December as they shut down for the holidays, Kelly said.

In November, the president of GST AutoLeather announced the cutting plant near Williamsport would be closed and workers would be laid off gradually. Many of those layoffs occurred before Thanksgiving and in January. The plant's last full day of production was Jan. 30.

Company President Mark Lecher said Jan. 29 that the closing would cost 158 jobs.

The county's labor force also shrank in December, perhaps because extra holiday help at retail stores was starting to be let go, Kelly said. Many of those workers usually are laid off in January, he said.

The civilian labor force in Washington County was 71,083 people in December, 490 people fewer than in November, according to the labor department.

Frederick County's unemployment rate remained at 2.7 percent in December, according to preliminary estimates.

Statewide, the jobless rate was 4.1 percent in December, while the nation's unemployment rate was 5.4 percent.

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